Spearheading the Asparagus Season
Daniel Allen’s 120 acres of paradise sits right on the Maury and Williamson county line. His parents, grandparents, and great-grandparents all farmed in the same area, so he naturally carried on the family tradition. He and his wife, Stephanie, started a community-supported agriculture (CSA) venture four years ago, but he has been a lifelong steward of the land. His many customers call him “Farmer Dan” when they encounter him at their farm, in Westhaven and at the Franklin farmers market during the growing season.
The list of produce Dan grows would stretch from here to the state line, but the first one that arrives each year is one of his favorites. Just as the temperatures begin to climb out of their gray, cold doldrums, he’ll find spears of asparagus poking out of the ground. It’s almost as if the spears have awakened from a winter’s nap and are anxious to check out the scenery. He has 80 crowns of an heirloom variety, Martha Washington, that seems to be in a race to see which crown can grow the fastest.
Why asparagus? “Asparagus grows easily here in Tennessee,” he says. “The challenge is keeping it weeded, because weeds grow really well here also. Another important thing for the grower is patience, because it takes a few years to really get a good yield after planting.”
His family gobbles up the spears almost as quickly as he can harvest them. The Allens make a regular repast of his simple recipe for oven-roasting it. He just sprinkles the spears with extra virgin olive oil, salt, pepper, and balsamic vinegar and places them on a baking sheet pan in a preheated 375-degree oven. Roast the asparagus to the degree of tenderness you desire, but turn it halfway through the cooking time. Around 15 minutes will still leave it with some good crunch. A quick garnish of grated Parmesan cheese is all it needs before serving.
If you don’t grow your own asparagus, look for spears that are firm with tightly closed tips. Whether you select thick or thin spears is a matter of personal preference. The key is to make sure the ones you prepare are close to the same thickness so they will cook evenly.
One pound will contain 15 to 20 spears depending on the spears’ thickness, and should serve 4. Trim the cut ends if they seem a little dry. You can also steam, microwave, grill, boil, bake or enjoy asparagus raw. However you decide to cook it, test for doneness by sticking a knife into a stalk. The knife should slip in easily.
Allenbrooke Farm, A certified Naturally Grown Farm
2023 Doctor Robertson Road
Spring Hill, TN 37174